Mennonites leaving Quebec after government closes school

More than a dozen Mennonite families are leaving Quebec this week after the province deemed their community school illegal and ordered it to shut down.

More than a dozen Mennonite families are leaving Quebec this week after the province deemed theircommunity school illegal and ordered it to shut down.

The Mennonites, who live in Roxton Falls in the Eastern Townships, said they will relocate to one of seven provinces that will let them run their own schools.

"We hoped to grow old here," a tearful Ron Goosen, one of the Mennonites, told CBC News on Thursday. "We have our burial plots and we hoped to be buried here, but it doesn't look that way."

The Quebec government says the school, which teaches 11 children between the ages of six and 13,is illegal because it does not have a permit, its teachers are not licensed and it doesn't follow a standard curriculum.

The school offers religious-based courses that are rooted in the Bible and reject the theory of evolution.

The government has threatened to take legal action if the school isn't closed.

"You have to have teachers that are legally qualified to provide instruction and you have to teach the program that is officially used in all Quebec schools," François Lefebvre, a spokesman for the education ministry, told Radio-Canada in French.

Goosen, who serves on the Mennonite school committee, said his community doesn't want to have certified teachers who are influenced by ideas and beliefs that the Mennonites oppose.

While theMennonites make plans to uproot themselves, the mayor of Roxton Falls is fighting to help them stay.

He and seven other local mayors have written to the education minister to try to get a reprieve.

Only 1,308 people live in Roxton Falls, so the loss of a dozen families would leave a big void, he said.

"These are good people," Mayor Jean-Marie Laplante told Radio-Canada in French. "They integrated with us. They've helped us."